Comic Book Awards for May

~Nandor Shaffer

The month of May was one of the most dynamic for my comic book titles. The biggest thing to report is welcoming back Steve Rogers as Captain America in the extra-sized (and now highly controversial) Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 ($4.99). Captain America has been favorite superhero character for years, and, while I think it’s unnecessarily convenient for there now to be two Captain Americas in the Marvel Universe, it’s so great to have my captain back. That is unless he is truly an agent of the evil HYDRA organization, an unexpected reveal at the end of the issue that got both fans and critics in a tizzy. There’s a lot that could be said about this, and I certainly am against this decision by writer Nick Spencer and Marvel, but I’m 100% confident this is something being blown out of proportion. It’s a common ploy in comics to get people talking, as well as get as much publicity as possible from the media, so rest assured, Steve Rogers will not be a part of Hydra for long (if he even is). Staying within the vicinity of Cap’s world, the Thunderbolts return under the leadership of the Winter Soldier in Thunderbolts #1. This was another one of those “impulsive buys” I’ve been finding myself doing recently, but I’m happy to say the issue wasn’t a waste of cash in the end. In fact, the ‘90s style of art by Jon Malin was entirely refreshing. May sought to give me double-doses of three of my books. Two issues of Uncanny Inhumans, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, and The Flashreleased. Uncanny Inhumans #8 and #9 explored the origins of Queen Medusa and Human Torch’s romance, the 11th Doctor’s hunt for who framed him for genocidal murder continues in #8 and #9 in his book, and The Flash ended its New 52 run, along with Aquaman, with issues #51 and #52. The “Rebel Jail” storyline concluded inStar Wars #19, while the exceptionally well written fifth and final issue of Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin also hit shelves.

But out of these and other nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for May? (Disclosure: I wasn’t able to pick up Moon Knight #2 because all of my local comic shops sold out curiously enough, but it is on order. Sadly, it is disqualified from being a potential nominee for this month).

Cover of the Month Award: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Year Two #9 

Cover: Mark Wheatley

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One thing I enjoy almost as much as watching the wonderful Doctor Who TV series is reading the spin-off comic books, which can include some marvelous artwork and images. Mark Wheatley’s cover for Doctor Who: The 11th Doctor Year Two #9 is one such example. The cover artists Titan Comics hires for not only the 11th Doctor comics, but for the other Doctors has been nothing short of exceptional. Every time I walk in to one of the comic book stores in my area and see an eye-catchingDoctor Who picture, it takes some doing to not buy the comic, if only for the sake of owning the cover (I’m a die-hard Whovian, what can I say?). What makes Wheatley’s cover so impressive is its spot-on presentation of the 11th Doctor, as played by Matt Smith. It’s impossible for the reader to mistake the face for someone else, and the way in which Wheatley captures Smith’s aura – his dramatic facial expression and fiddle of the 11th’s iconic bow-tie –  gives the cover an overwhelming pop and respect. The clarity and realism of it takes me aback entirely, as if it came straight from a scene in the show itself.

Art of the Month Award: Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 

Artist: Jesus Saiz

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The consistency of talented art is there enough in Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 to hold it high above the other books for May. Disregarding the escalating controversial nature of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1, the great artwork, done solely by artist Jesus Saiz, within the single comic book issue leaves little room for debate or disappointment. Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 feels and looks like a natural superhero book because of Saiz; all of the characters look tough, but distinct; the settings feel like they are from a comic book, but still convincing. Jesus does a very fine job at following Spencer’s script to the last line, his storytelling skills clearly apparent. Captain America comics are known for their action sequences, which Jesus knocks out of the park (pages 4 and 13, especially). Captain America’s new outfit in the midst of battle really steals the show. I did find some of his panels to look too stiff or too generic, however. The best thing about Jesus Saiz is his all-around talent. Contributing the pencils, inks, and colors for this issue, and most likely for the length of his tenure on the book, Saiz gives the reader his all.

Story of the Month Award: Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin #5

Writer: Charles Soule 

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Being a huge, passionate fan of the Star Wars prequels, Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin has been my favorite comic series of the license Marvel has put out yet. Since every single past Expanded Universe story about Anakin’s time at the Jedi Temple and training under Obi-Wan has now been debunked under Disney’s shadow, it was a tremendous surprise to get a new canonical tale of these brothers in the Force so soon. Considering how much Star Wars fans want to distance themselves from the prequels (an unfortunate fact), a story from this era is just as shocking to me as well. The plot of Anakin & Obi-Wan finds the master and his apprentice stranded in the middle of a planetary civil war between the tribes of The Closed and The Open on the planet Carnelion IV after learning of a distress call from the planet’s surface. To add to the tension, this is supposed to be Anakin Skywalker’s last mission as a Jedi disciple; he has decided to leave the Jedi Order for a time, which troubles Obi-Wan. The series has done a fair job at juggling these two threads of narrative, and the fifth and final issue features one heck of a payoff. The last few pages of this issue made the entire series worth it for me. I was really touched by how writer Charles Soule handled the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin throughout these five issues, and although the limited series felt slow, a bit underdeveloped, and didn’t deliver on the lightsaber-wielding action I had hoped for, the scope of it and underlying theme on what it means to be a Jedi made for a very agreeable read. More comic books on the young adventures of this master and apprentice, as well as from the prequel era, would be awesome to see more of in the future. 

Issue of the Month Award: International Iron Man #3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist & Cover Artist: Alex Maleev

Color Artist: Paul Mounts

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There’s not a particular special quality of International Iron Man #3. Every significant facet of this issue from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev is simply solid, and these combine to produce a memorable, engaging comic book. Let’s start off by inspecting Maleev’s cover art. First off, the image speaks of legacy, the past meeting the present. Tony stares intently at the helmet of the most current iteration of his armor as his first, technologically handicapped suit looms in the backdrop. The way the tender blue of Tony contrasts against the bright orange and deep red surroundings of the page precisely captures the weighty presence of the artwork’s message. I’ve been an admirer of Maleev’s talent for a while now, and this cover only furthers my admiration for him and his skill. Moving on to Maleev’s interiors, I will say his work is not as impressive. This is most likely due to Paul Mounts providing his colors to Maleev’s pencils and inks. The two gel well together visually, but there are times I wish Maleev was doing his own colors for the book. Nonetheless, the crispness of Maleev’s work is brilliant in International Iron Man #3. I primarily love how he draws a young Tony Stark and portrays the sweet, reckless romance scenes between him and Cassandra. The point of the International Iron Man title is to give readers a more in-depth look at Tony Stark’s life outside of the mainstream Marvel universe. In the three issues so far, the book has been revealing to us a past romantic event with a Cassandra Gillespie from Tony’s earlier years when he was a college student. In the present day, Tony’s search for his real parents has led him back to Cassandra, now an international arms dealer. Gradually with each issue, we’re getting more backstory on Tony’s relationship to this character, and here we find out her attraction to Stark wasn’t all that sincere in the beginning. Bendis’ writing for the series is in its best form in some time, with smart and fun dialogue cohesively and consistently holding everything together in this third issue. I look forward to finding out Cassandra’s connection to Tony’s real parents in the coming months, and seeing how his past relationship with her eventually falls a part.

Thank you all for checking out my awards for May and be sure to check back sometime next month for June’s Comic Book Awards. Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

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